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At a time where many are seeking out ways to de-stress, mindfulness practices have been discussed, and actively encouraged, in many corners of the globe. Now, we wanted to highlight the wonderful My Mindful A to Zen: 26 Wellbeing Haiku for Happy Little Minds — a book which gently explores mindfulness concepts like Om, Yoga and Zen — and the talented Krina Patel-Sage who authored and illustrated it.
Congratulations on the publication of My Mindful A to Zen! Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them what inspired you to create this book?
I'm Krina Patel-Sage, author and illustrator of My Mindful A to Zen. The book was inspired a few weeks after the birth of my youngest son. My eldest son was having some big feelings around certain events. I wanted to make a book to help him navigate any difficult feelings and situations that may arise with resilience and a positive outlook.
How wonderful that you can now positively impact the lives of so many other children as well. As both the author and illustrator, your publishing experience is quite unique. What was the most challenging part about creating both the written and visual aspects of the book?
I think it was the sheer amount of work! I had a baby and a 4-year-old. As a single parent with no childcare I had to work during naptime, and after they had gone to sleep, which meant waking myself up with coffee at 9pm to start a 3-hour stint. The baby wasn't sleeping through the night at this point either so it was absolutely exhausting. I'm so proud of the finished product though.
That sounds like quite the feat, but I think we can all agree that it was worth it! Here at Lantana, we believe all children deserve to see themselves in the books they read, and your book wonderfully encompasses this ethos. What are your thoughts on representation in children’s books, and how do you think we can all do more to champion greater inclusivity within the publishing industry?
I think it's great that almost all mainstream publishers have tried to tackle this issue since CLPE released their Reflecting Realities report in 2018. Lantana does it particularly well by championing creators of colour like myself, as well as having diversity in their books. Having grown up in a very multicultural London, it comes naturally to me to depict children from all different cultures. I also make a conscious effort to represent those with disabilities in a sensitive way. As writers and illustrators we have to be considerate when representing those outside our own lived experience. It's important to do research, and make sure we're not trying to tell stories that don't belong to us, whilst also ensuring we are representing all children and families.
We couldn’t agree more! So, when was the moment you decided you needed to bring My Mindful A to Zen to life, and was it a long road to publication? At a time when many have experienced increased stress due to the pandemic, lockdowns, and working from home, we can’t help but think this book is more needed than ever before.
As soon as I had the idea! When I get an idea, I get ants in my pants until I bring it to life. I put the baby in a sling and got drawing on my laptop. I did about 5 illustrations and the cover which I sent out to a few people. Someone suggested a few months later that it would be a good fit for Lantana so I made my submission and the rest is history. Publishing is always a long process; it's been almost 2 and a half years from conception to publication but I don't think that's particularly long in the scheme of things. I actually signed the contract in March 2020 just as the pandemic was unfolding so it felt really relevant whilst I was working on it. The rainbows were included right from the beginning so that was a total coincidence.
It definitely seems as if it was meant to be! Now, for those who don’t know, My Mindful A to Zen has a haiku for every letter of the alphabet. Are there any favourite letters which come to mind? Perhaps, K, P or S. Who doesn’t love a monogram after all?
I think it's P! Positivity sums up just about every other entry and increasing positivity is my main hope for the book.
The illustrations bring the haiku poems to life in a beautiful, technicolour way. How did you go about creating the initial sketches, and what were the core materials you used?
I work completely digitally in Photoshop with a basic Wacom tablet and very old MacBook Pro. I started out as a designer in children's publishing almost 10 years ago so I'm very comfortable with composition and sketching layouts.
Everyone’s creative process is different, especially in an industry as fast-paced as publishing. Do you use mindfulness practices when you’re stressed or have a lot of deadlines to meet? If so, how do they help prevent creative burnout?
I think I've always practiced mindfulness to manage stress without realising it. I don't focus on the amount of work I have or worry about the future but work consistently to get things done. Concentrating on the task at hand and working through things in this way means you can achieve a lot and meet your deadlines. Having children in a funny way makes you more productive. I have to have a strict schedule to work around them, there's no time for procrastination. Having time with them also breaks up the work day with some fun and laughter, giving my mind another focus.
Picture books are often a collaborative process between an author and illustrator (as well as the wider publishing team). Did you complete a page at a time, or illustrate the book after all of the haiku had been written?
I had most of the haiku written, and about 5 illustrations (with the rest of the visuals written as notes), when I submitted to Lantana. Some haiku were changed during the editorial process but they were all in place before I did the rest of the illustrations. It's much easier to change text than images so I like to have the text pretty much nailed before creating visuals. Some haiku were tweaked at the end because we're all perfectionists!
We can definitely relate to being perfectionists! Now, it’s no secret to fellow creatives that there’s always a project to keep us busy. Are there any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
I'm working on another book and a couple of new concepts but I'm afraid it's all top secret, but I hope to share more soon.
What a shame you can’t share more details, but we look forward to hopefully finding out more! For all of our budding writers and illustrators out there, do you have any tips for starting out in the industry?
I recommend reading and analysing the types of books you want to create obsessively. Show your work to lots of people and be proactive with mentorships, competitions and as many things you can get involved with as possible. Instagram was a great way for me to get feedback on my work so I could keep developing, and I also got a commission from the work I posted there which was spotted by a publisher. Most importantly, enjoy the journey.
Thank you, Krina! We hope you enjoyed this interview and Krina’s insightful thoughts on all things publishing, stress management, and her inspiration behind the book. Find out more about Krina’s work, and keep up to date with her latest projects by following her on Instagram and Twitter.
These haiku poems for the soul gently introduce children to mindfulness concepts like Om, Yoga and Zen, as well as goals for mindful living like Gratitude and Positivity. With its delightful cast of inclusive characters, this inspirational poetry collection promotes wellbeing with every letter.
Krina is an illustrator, author, and designer. Beginning her design career at a children’s publishing house in 2012, she developed a passion for illustrated non-fiction. In 2018, she was shortlisted for Penguin’s WriteNow illustration prize. Most days, you’ll find her in the local woods, spotting birds and fungi with her two young sons.